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Long Distance Moving:
Stationary vs. Portable Storage Options

On a "fun" scale of 1 to 10, moving is a zero, about as much fun as a root canal. If you're moving a long distance, it's like root canal without anesthesia. It's a giant pain, especially when you don't have a home or apartment waiting for you on the other end. If money is no object, you can hire a big moving company to do everything for you. The cost of that full-service convenience is steep-anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000 and up, according to, an online resource for people who are relocating. If you're shipping your vehicle, they say to tack on another $900 to $1,600 to your costs. But if you're like the rest of us, money is a very big object and you want to get through this ordeal without spending wads of it. That pretty much narrows it down to a couple of do-it-yourself options: traditional self-storage units or portable containers. The following will help you figure out which makes the most sense for you.

The Portable Container Route

You can't beat these for convenience. The containers (also called pods) come in a variety of sizes. Units range from 7'x7'8' to 16'x8'x8'. The company you rent from brings the unit to you. They often have roll-up garage-style doors, so you can just walk your things in without lifting. When you're ready, the company comes back, retrieves the portable container and takes it wherever you want. Not sure where you'll be living in your new hometown? The portable container company can store your container at a storage center on either end of your journey until you're ready to unpack your pod. While the actual units aren't climate-controlled, the storage centers are.

Advantages, according to Jay Delahousay, writing for the online version of the Houston Chronicle at, include flexibility and not having to drive a large rental truck or pay for gas and additional rental truck insurance. The units are usually rented for a 30-day minimum, he says, which gives you time to pack and unpack at your leisure, although you can extend the rental for an additional fee.

Delahousay says disadvantages of the portable units can include cost, which may be significantly higher than renting a truck, and parking issues. "If your POD sits for the full rental period of one month, you must find a secure spot that does not impede traffic. You may also need to have a permit or lease space to park it, which can add to your costs."

If your portable unit is stacked at the company's storage center, access can be an issue, too, according to Richard Farrell, a writer for "Access," he says, "is very limited and only available by prior arrangement." Depending on your rental agreement, that could be up to a day or two ahead of time-not good if you've accidentally packed your three-year-old's security blanket.

Traditional Self-Storage Units

Self-storage units are rented month to month and come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small lockers to roomy areas large enough to fit a houseful of furniture. Like the portable unit storage centers, modern self-storage units can be climate-controlled, and the facilities typically have onsite security systems that can include fencing, human patrol and video surveillance cameras. Most provide 27/7, 365-access. And some, such as Uncle Bob's, will allow you to use their moving trucks and furniture dollies free of charge locally between the facility and your home.

The cost of a traditional storage unit compares favorably with the portable units. But unless you have a moving van, you're going to need a moving truck if you choose to go this route. Reporter and editor Jason Notte says renting a truck is "easily the least expensive option-probably why it is embraced by one-third of all moving households nationwide regardless of destination."

While this is true, it is an additional expense. Delahousay writes that, "As of March 2012, a one-week Penske commercial truck rental for a move from Los Angeles to New York costs $300 per day for a light-duty truck, based on 100 miles per day with 25 cents per mile for excess miles." A Budget commercial rental for the same trip, he notes, would cost from $1,400 to $2,200. Keep in mind, those figures don't include gasoline, extra insurance or the value you put on your time. And you'll also have to do the loading and unloading-up to four times, if you use a self-storage unit on each end of your move.

The Choice is Yours

Once you've compared the pros and cons of both options and determined which works better for you, you'll have plenty of choices. Most locations now have a number of portable storage companies to choose from. If you opt for a traditional self-storage unit, you can find one near you by searching online.

"Moving Cross Country Costs", Moving Cross Country -

"Local Moving: What Size Fits Me?", PODS -

"PODS vs. Truck Rental", -

"What are the Different Types of Storage Facilities?", What are the Different Types of Storage Facilities? -

"3 Best Ways to Move Across Country", Main St -

"PODS vs. Truck Rental", -


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